Peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) safely and effectively treated achalasia in patients with persistent symptoms after Heller myotomy, according to the results of a retrospective study of 180 patients treated at 13 centers worldwide.
Rates of clinical success were 81% among patients who had previously undergone Heller myotomy and 94% among those who had not (P = .01), reported, of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Baltimore, with her associates. The groups did not significantly differ in terms of rates of adverse events (8% and 13%, respectively), postprocedural symptomatic reflux (30% and 32%), or reflux esophagitis (44% and 52%). “Although the rate of clinical success in patients with prior Heller myotomy is lower than in those without [it], the safety profile of POEM is comparable,” they wrote in the October issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology ( ).
Heller myotomy achieves a long-term symptomatic response in about 90% of patients with achalasia and has a complication rate of only about 5%, according to Dr. Ngamruengphong and her associates. When this surgery does not successfully resolve symptoms, patients historically have chosen between repeating it or undergoing pneumatic dilation. However, POEM posted high success rates in several small, single-center case series. Thus, the researchers analyzed data on 180 adults with achalasia whose Eckardt scores were at least 3 and who underwent POEM at 13 tertiary care centers in Australia, France, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States during 2009-2015.
POEM was a technical success for 98% for the group of patients who previously had undergone Heller myotomy and for 100% for those who had not, the researchers reported. In the univariate analysis, predictors of clinical failure included prior Heller myotomy (odds ratio, 3.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.3-10.4; P = .02) and prior pneumatic dilation (OR, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.2-7.4; P = .02). In the multivariable analysis, prior Heller myotomy significantly increased the chances of clinical failure (adjusted OR, 3.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.0-8.9; P = .04) after accounting for prior pneumatic dilation and baseline Eckardt score. Prior pneumatic dilation reached borderline significance (adjusted OR, 2.6; 95% CI, 0.99-7.0; P = .05). Clinical failure was not associated with age, sex, achalasia subtypes, previous therapy, baseline Eckardt score, length of myotomy, orientation of myotomy, or extent of lower esophageal sphincter myotomy.
“Previous studies have reported that the success rates of pneumatic dilation in patients who failed prior Heller myotomy ranged between 50% and 89%,” the researchers said. However, success is often short-lived, with up to 45% of patients needing another procedure within 2 years, putting them at risk of “potentially serious adverse events, such as esophageal perforation or aspiration,” they added.
Repeat surgical myotomy is reportedly successful in 73%-89% of cases; however, itis technically challenging because of adhesions and fibrosis from the previous surgery and is associated with a high risk of gastrointestinal perforation.
Clinicians should carefully investigate the reasons a Heller myotomy failed in order to elect a course of action, the researchers emphasized. “For instance, for patients with symptom relapse or failure to respond to surgical myotomy as a result of incomplete myotomy or myotomy fibrosis, POEM is likely to be effective,” they said. “On the other hand, when the cause of persistent symptoms after surgical myotomy is tight fundoplication, a redo fundoplication should be recommended.”
Dr. Ngamruengphong had no disclosures. Three coinvestigators disclosed consulting relationships with Boston Scientific, Medtronic, Sandhill Scientific, Erbe, and Cosmo Pharmaceuticals.